How to Discipline that Preschooler of Yours



Yes, that’ s a picture of my daughter’s time out chair.

Let’s be honest, the struggle is real.

Children are many things all rolled into a wonderful ball of energy. What do you do when that little ball of energy is suddenly screaming like a terrorized child in the middle of Target, that you’re the “Worst Mommy EVER?!

In my personal and professional experience, I recommend the following “little nuggets of wisdom”:

  • Communicate with your partner. Decide which battles are big deals. Does setting daily expectations and schedules standards simplify your parenting? What may be a big deal to you, may not be a big deal to your significant other – set expectations you can agree on.
  • Be flexible. What may work one week, may not work the next. You may have to try a hundred different strategies before finding what works for you and your family, as each family and child are different. My daughter appreciates knowing her daily schedule, some kids may not care but she does.
  • Decide specific consequences for inappropriate behaviors. Have heard the saying “The punishment should fit the crime?” Well, the same is true for disciplining preschoolers.
    When my daughter misbehaves, I explain that her behavior is not appropriate. If the behavior persists, she gets a timeout, and more significant misbehavior mat warrant a small chore or toys taken away.
  • In words that your children understand, explain the expectations. Children embrace schedules and predictability. Professionally and personally, I see this truth daily. When children understand expectations, they are more able to adhere schedules, behavior standards, and comply with consequences. Explaining expectations can actually make the process of discipline much easier for parents and children.
  • When your child is doing well, ENCOURAGE them! Even when trying their best but still coming up short, encourage those little babes. They will want to keep trying to do well. I guarantee it!
  • Consistency will be your new best friend. Being a single parent, I don’t have anyone to help set the expectations in my home. Admittedly, I have wavered on numerous occasions, I surrendered. At the end of exhausting days, I may say “Sure, eat dinner in front of the TV.” or I would give my daughter too many chances. Being consistent with her consequences is harder, but makes enforcing rules easier.

Practical Preschool Consequences: {Because I’m not going to leave you hangin’}:
[For my household, I decided that after one redirection, if there was not adequate behavior change, my daughter would have a consequence.]

  • Time outs- Put a time out chair in a semi-secluded area of the house, so that you can still supervise your child but not so close to others that they still think it’s play time.
  • Apologies- In adult world, when we mess up we are expected to follow our inappropriate action with an apology. I try to model this to my daughter every day. I will say to her “Hey, I’m sorry I raised my voice. I didn’t intend to, but I lost my temper. I hope we can move on from here.” A three year old may not understand this, but as children will mature apologies will become increasingly more important.
  • Taking away toys- Restricting toys or privileges is something that can be done for a time period and needs to be relative to the situation. In the morning, if my daughter is not listening to me after one redirection , then she won’t be allowed to play with a favorite toy until after lunch.
  • Small chores- Let’s face it: your son or daughter may have the attention span of a fly who has just gobbled up some sugar. Hours sorting through mismatched socks are unlikely. Let’s start with something small: wiping down the table, putting away silverware, or vacuuming. Having your child do chores is way that they ccan make amends for bad behavior and earn back privileges. Small chores are an effective way to demonstrate that some consequences require more than an apology. In adult world, when trust is broken, it takes time to build it back up again.
  • Taking away TV or electronics time- My daughter really likes Monster High movies.
    Want to guess what she doesn’t like? When I explain to her that because she threw a tantrum over dinner, she doesn’t get to watch Monster High. When I have explained the expectations to her and she didn’t follow them, then she doesn’t get her privileges.
  • Light spanking- This is always my last resort, and a form of discipline I use rarely. I have given my daughter one light tap on her bottom in a couple instances, never using a weapon or causing marks or injury. She is five years old, and able to understand the correlation of bad behavior and appropriate consequences.
  • Offer coping skills– Too often I see parents who implement discipline but don’t offer another avenue in which their children are able to appropriately express frustration.
    I have taught my daughter that when I am upset, I need coping skills too. She likes taking deep breaths or using squishy sand while in her time out. Other ideas a: shouting into a pillow, jogging, running water over their hands (sometimes messy but can help), journaling, crying, or even sitting and doing nothing.
    When my daughter was first learning how to use coping skills when she was about three, she would ask me to take deep breaths with her.

Learning what fits your family in terms of disciplining your preschooler will be a trial and error process. Whatever you choose, be consistent and seek out support from family and friends!

How do you teach your little ones about proper behavior and consequences?


  1. Um…doesn’t anyone here besides me think that giving out chores as punishment is teaching children to be lazy??? Or to be good so they can continue to be lazy? In my world, chores are a part of everyday life. We all live in our home together as a family and so everyone as a family must help keep our home neat and clean. In the Adult World, we don’t maids or our mothers living with us, so we must keep our own house clean.

  2. Great tips! So spot on. It’s crazy how much little ones can pick up and what they can understand so quickly… which also makes it important to actually correct your child – appropriately – now, even if they’re little.

  3. Love these tips, and I will need them really soon!

    I started time-out with my daughter when she turned 1. I know she doesn’t really “get it”, and I have to sit with her or else she’s just going to get up and go play, but it’s a time-out for me as well. I just sit with her and take deep breaths. That’s why I love time-out so much: it really gives everyone a chance to calm down and think about how to react to the situation.

    I appreciate the tips on communication and also offering different solutions. I feel like I forget a lot just how little and inexperienced with, well, everything these kids are. They have zero coping skills and if we don’t TEACH them healthy skills…they’ll go with what their little animal brains tell them to do (hitting, biting, kicking, etc).

    Thanks for the post!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here